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Toulon are favourites – Cockerill

Tuesday 2nd April 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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I quarti di finale di Heineken Cup si chiuderanno domenica alle 17

I quarti di finale di Heineken Cup si chiuderanno domenica alle 17

Richard Cockerill knows the odds will be stacked against his side when they travel to Toulon, but the former England hooker has always relished a fight.

So when he declares that the Tigers are the underdogs for Sunday’s quarter-final you know he is only saying that to motivate his players.

“We’ve got nothing to lose and we won’t fear going there,” was his other comment.

Game on!

Tigers will travel on the back of a massive win over arch-rivals Northampton Saints away from home and safe in the knowledge they are on course for a home draw in their domestic semi-finals in the Aviva Premiership.

Toulon put their defeat in Bayonne out of their minds with a big win over Stade Francais Paris last weekend and had a fully fit Jonny Wilkinson firing on all cylinders. If he can do that again on home soil this weekend then Tigers could be in trouble.

Keeping Wilkinson out of the firing line is key to the two-time champions’ chances of success. Discipline will be vital and not switching off at vital moments – as they did in Toulouse in their opening game of the season.

Tigers came through the ‘Pool of Death’ to beat both Toulouse and the Ospreys to the quarter-final slot and will be battle hardened. Toulon earned a home draw for the first time thanks to five wins out of six in their Pool – their one defeat came in Montpellier – and have added former Heineken Cup winner Rocky Elsom and former World Cup winner Dannie Roussoux to their back row options since the Pool stages.

They have so many world class players to pick from they could almost run a second team capable of reaching the last eight in their own right. For instance, will Tigers tight head Dan Cole pack down against Welsh skipper Gethin Jenkins or his former England team mate Andrew Sheridan?

Bakkies Botha could start in the second row alongside either Nick Kennedy or Simon Shaw, Carl Hayman will feature at tight head prop and the back row options, with Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe, Joe van Niekerk and Steffon Armitage in the mix, will be a nightmare.

Is this the season, after two falls at the final hurdle in the Amlin Challenge Cup, that Toulon win European silverware? The component parts are all there, but they will face a Tigers side brimful of experience, talent and confidence.

The clash between Mathieu Bastareaud and Manu Tuilagi will be worth the admission price in its own right, as will Toby Flood v Jonny Wilkinson. It is a game you just won’t be able to take your eyes off for one moment.

Match Facts

• Toulon have made 63 clean breaks in the tournament so far, a Heineken Cup high.

• Delon Armitage is one of only two players to surpass 500 metres gained in the Heineken Cup this season. The full-back has carried for 514 metres to date.

• This is the Tigers’ 11th quarter-final appearance in the Heineken Cup. They have won six of the previous 10 and have reached the final on five occasions.

• The Tigers have won on seven of their 18 trips to France in the Heineken Cup and have lost in all of their last six visits across the Channel.

• Toulon have met English opposition on four occasions in the tournament and maintain a 100% win rate so far, beating Sale Sharks by an aggregate score of 79-6 in this year’s pool stage.

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Wilkinson gets drop on Tigers

Sunday 7th April 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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Le club de Mourad Boudjellal a dans le viseur sa première finale de H Cup. Dernière marche à franchir

Le club de Mourad Boudjellal a dans le viseur sa première finale de H Cup. Dernière marche à franchir

Jonny Wilkinson put the boot into Leicester Tigers to earn Toulon a semi-final showdown with Saracens at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday, 28 April.

The veteran England outside half was on target with six penalty goals before sealing Toulon’s first semi-final appearance with a trademark drop goal for a 21-15 victory.

His former Newcastle Falcons clubmate and opposite number Toby Flood landed five penalties but the former champions suffered with yellow cards for Flood and prop Dan Cole that reduced them to 14 men for a quarter of the tie.

The Tigers had come flying out of the blocks at a partisan Stade Felix Mayol and they demonstrated their attacking intent with Anthony Allen and Tom Croft combining early on.

Toby Flood booted the scoreboard into action on 10 minutes after the visitors got the upper hand at the scrum.

Richard Cockerill’s men continued to dominate in the opening exchanges and Flood quickly doubled their advantage.

The England fly-half was once again on target on 18 minutes, with Cole again impressive at the set-piece.

But Leicester were dealt a blow when their deadly marksman was sin-binned for deliberately knocking on a Delon Armitage pass.

Wilkinson slotted the ensuing penalty and the hosts began to find their feet with a sustained period of pressure.
That resulted in Wilkinson’s second penalty, after the 14-man Tigers strayed offside.

The visitors were dealt a blow just before half-time as Tom Croft departed with an injury and their woes were compounded as Flood fired a penalty wide.

Within four minutes of the restart the former England fly-half levelled the score after Ed Slater tripped Steffon Armitage without the ball.

Two minutes later he continued his 100 per cent strike-rate to hand Toulon the lead for the first time.

Toulon twice crossed the line to see their efforts ruled out. First Mathieu Bastareaud was adjudged to have put a foot in touch after bulldozing is way over in the corner.

And minutes George Clancy ruling that Bakkies Botha crossed with a double movement.

Flood responded but they were dealt a major blow when Cole was shown yellow for a deliberate knock on which was far more cynical than Flood’s first-half offence.

Wilkinson dissected the posts from the ensuing penalty and moments he knocked over his sixth shot from the tee to put his side six points clear.

Flood kept the Tigers in touch, with his fifth penalty, to set up a tense finale but Toulon surged down field in the closing stages and Wilkinson slotted a late drop-goal to seal the win.

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